They’ve changed the corner office. They’ve changed the front office.
And now the Winnipeg Blue Bombers are about to implement the most sweeping changes in recent memory to the team itself.
Barring any last-minute signings before CFL free agency begins at 11 a.m. Tuesday morning, the Bombers will allow a whopping 11 players from last year’s team -- including seven who spent all or part of the season as starters -- to head to the open market to shop their services to whomever is interested.
The list of pending Bombers free agents reads like a who’s who of last year’s team -- running backs Chad Simpson and Will Ford; defensive backs Jovon Johnson and Brandon Stewart; wide receivers Chris Matthews and Akeem Foster; defensive linemen Kenny Mainor and JT Gilmore; centre Justin Sorenson; offensive lineman Andre Douglas; and linebacker Dan West.
One player who definitely won’t be back in Blue and Gold in 2014 is Johnson. The 2011 CFL defensive player of the year said via his social media account that he’s been told by the Bombers' front office they won’t be re-signing him.
To begin to fill that void, the Bombers announced Monday they had acquired import defensive back Chris Randle from the Calgary Stampeders in a deal that also saw the two teams swap third-round picks in the 2014 CFL draft. The Bombers then signed Randle to a contract extension.
Randle (5-11, 191, Utah State) started 16 games for Calgary in 2013, registering 34 defensive tackles and four interceptions. He was Calgary’s rookie of the year nominee in 2012.
While some other teams around the CFL were busy Monday doing last-minute signings of key players who were pending free agents Tuesday -- the Saskatchewan Roughriders were particularly busy in that regard -- the Bombers managed to tick just one pending free agent off their list with the announcement that long-snapper Chris Cvetkovic had retired.
Cvetkovic, an 11-year Bombers veteran, announced his retirement through his personal Twitter account and it came as no surprise after a tough year in 2013 that saw him lose his long-snapping duties towards the end of the season, with Bombers linebacker Ian Wild doing double duty to pick up some of the slack.